As drummer for the English hard rock band DEF LEPPARD, Rick Allen knows what it's like to be on top of the musical world. After a near-fatal auto accident in 1984, he also knows what it's like to completely lose his left arm to amputation — and the post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) that almost destroyed his will to live. "I didn't know what my life would be like after that terrible day," says Rick. "It was the darkest time in my life. And, even today, I still consider myself a work in progress." Yet, as Rick and so many others have learned, it's always darkest before the dawn.
Rick began perfecting his use of a specially designed electronic drum kit so he could play with one arm. And perfect he did indeed; the resulting DEF LEPPARD album — "Hysteria" — sold more than 20 million copies worldwide.
But Rick never forgot what it was like to suffer. That was never more evident than in 2006 when the USO invited Rick to visit injured service members at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. "I was moved by their courage, their suffering and by the very challenging journey many of them had ahead," recalls Rick. "I spent time talking to as many warriors as I could — listening, learning, and sharing my own experience of losing my arm and having to rebuild my life." Rick left Walter Reed inspired by a burning desire to do more for our nation's wounded. He took action by inviting several warriors from Wounded Warrior Project (WWP) to attend a DEF LEPPARD concert.
WWP alumnus Norbie Lara remembers it with fondness: "Being an arm amputee myself, I was encouraged by what Rick had accomplished," says Norbie. "He continues to invite warriors to his concerts and remains involved with WWP any way he can — visiting warriors in hospitals such as Bethesda, Walter Reed, and Brooke Army Medical Center."
Rick and his wife Lauren also participate in WWP's Project Odyssey, an outdoor, rehabilitative retreat that helps warriors overcome combat stress through shared experiences with peers and connecting with nature, and co-hosted this year's California Couples Odyssey. And since 2009, they have conducted "Warrior Mental Health Gatherings" backstage at DEF LEPPARD concerts across the country. These gatherings provide community events for veterans and their caregivers to get out and enjoy an evening with other warriors.
Rick founded the Raven Drum Foundation, which provides drum circles to Wounded Warrior to help encourage healing from PTSD. Other efforts of Rick's foundation include Resiliency Radio, where he broadcasts programs geared toward rebuilding a healthy life. This includes interviews with WWP teammates and other warriors.
Raven Drum Foundation also hosts an online community for veterans and others in need, helps raise awareness about WWP and how warriors struggle, and works with WWP to seek out new, holistic treatment options to enhance the recovery of warriors with PTSD.
"My desire is to encourage a support system for warriors, de-stigmatize PTSD, share their stories, and offer alternative ways to pave the road to resiliency and health," says Rick. "PTSD does not control us; we have the power to control it."
An ABC News video report in which Rick Allen talks about helping veterans with PTSD as part of the Wounded Warriors Project can be seen below.